March 25, 2010 – Back in the days before Call of Duty: Modern Warfare rappelled it’s way to the top of the video game battle-sim pile (it’s so high up it had to find the way down to the top of the pile) there were several war games vying for the affection of virtual soldiers. The original PlayStation and the PS2 hosted some of the tightest gaming clashes as developers fought inch by inch to sink their bayonets into the consistently shifting “battle” games market. They were good times for gamers; plenty of still popular franchises like Call of Duty, Rainbow Six, and Ghost Recon made their mark with strategic and varied gameplay and tense realism. The first-person shooter genre was booming and fans had a lot of choices.
The original Medal of Honor debuted in 1999 on the PSone and gave gamers enough reason to stick with the franchise for a while despite a spotty array of games. Few games can claim the range of effective (and ineffective) games that the MoH series has and still walk away with a loyal following. Similar to the 2K games vs. EA Sports debates of the last decade of gaming (before EA gobbled up the NFL license), there was a time when Medal of Honor was comparable to Call of Duty and actually cost fans some serious gray matter when it came to picking a favorite. With the shift to the current generation there was a new class of war titles, and WWII titles lost their appeal with the advent of modern era shooters like Advanced Warfighter or Rainbow Six Vegas. The gaming public and developers took a lax attitude toward the ‘Nazi-killin’ bidness’ and franchises like Medal of Honor, which heavily or completely relied on WWII, faded into the history books.
With the success of FPS and third-person shooters set in the modern era-Army of Two, Modern Warfare, Battlefield: Bad Company-the big wigs at EA have decided to reenlist their old warhorse. It’s not hard to see where it takes some inspirations, but Medal of Honor may bring something new to fans and Modern Warfare junkies alike.
Medal of Honor is set for release this fall and early preview builds and media have been pretty sharp. Developer EA Los Angeles has shed the Axis powers and is focusing on the ‘Axis of Evil’. Curiously, though the main single-player campaign will be developed by EA Los Angeles, DICE (developers of the well-received sandbox action in Battlefield: Bad Company and Bad Company 2) will be working to develop the multiplayer. It will be interesting to see how the two developers balance their respective styles, but both have the track record to suggest some great gameplay. It’s definitely something to get excited about, but there are a lot of things to work out and there isn’t much information on either at this point.
The story concerns a group of beyond-Black Ops agents who are called in to deal with situations to dangerous for even Special Forces to deal with. The members of this elite group are highly classified, respond directly to the National Command Authority, and number among the most dangerous and highly trained operatives in the world. They where no uniforms, follow their own rules, and get things done, and players will step into the GI boots of a Tier 1 operative on the ground in Afghanistan.
EA Los Angeles has worked alongside the US Armed Forces to ensure that things are as accurate as possible. Early demos and reports showcase the games heavy focus on stealth and strategic formations, but also demonstrate a big emphasis on squad effectiveness and action. Unlike games like Modern Warfare, which center themselves on dynamic (and very pretty) action set pieces, MoH might strike a balance between slow, methodical gameplay and more frenzied battles. In one type of stage, gamers may use the shadows to slink through the hills and take out enemy patrols, and in others your squad will gun down foes on the run as they chase objectives or launch fast, aggressive offensives. The design philosophy so far seems to be to keep gamers on their toes. Switching characters, communicating with commanding officers and supervisors at HQ, and varying objectives and opponents will all play some part, though it’s still unclear how they will affect the gameplay experience.
Visuals seem to take a big cue from some of the popular modern era shooters of the current-gen systems, appropriately enough, and sound design and enemy AI has impressed demo players in the past weeks. It’s been a while since Medal of Honor played in any war games, but they’re taking inspiration from all the right places. Keep an eye on this one.